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For two weeks the media has been buzzing about the news that Emperor Akihito will abdicate before 2019.

Initially, it was reported that he’d step down on Dec. 31, 2018, and his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, would become the new Emperor the next day. Every media outlet seemed to accept this information despite the fact that no official announcement was made. When queried during one of his regular news conferences, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga expressed irritation while claiming that he knew nothing about any such report. The Imperial Household Agency was more specific in its articulation of annoyance, stating that such a scenario would be “difficult” owing to private Shinto rituals that the Imperial family conducts on New Year’s Day.

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